Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost — June 17th, 2012

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost — June 17th, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Augustana 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 39 Sermon for Pent 3.mp3

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon today is the Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians.

The Christians in Corinth were not too sure about Paul, the apostle.  He had been a little harsh in his first letter to them, they thought.  I believe the phrase is: “he stepped on everybody’s toes.”  He wasn’t very “apostolic”, he wasn’t very “pastoral” in their mind.  He didn’t speak all that well.  He’s terribly hard to understand in his letters, all those run-on sentences.  He had a knack for getting in trouble with the authorities too often.  He’s a bit of a weakling, really.  He just recently had a terrible run-in in Ephesus.  Luke records some of what happened in Acts chapter 19 which we don’t really have time to go into.  But suffice it to say, Paul thought he and the people he was with were done for, they had essentially started a riot, so much so that maybe for the first time, Paul begins to think he might not live to see Jesus’ return in glory.  And so writing for the second time to the Christians in Corinth he spells out in a little more detail what he knows lies ahead for us in eternity.  He uses an extended metaphor of tent and heavenly dwelling to talk about our earthly flesh and our risen, glorified bodies leading to verses 9 and 10 where he says very plainly that we will appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  But all of this is grounded on what has come before it; it is part of Paul’s extended line of thinking to the Corinthians about his ministry to them and ultimately their ministry to others in the name of Jesus.  In effect, Paul acknowledged that they didn’t think all that much of him and been expecting something a little flashier.  Something a little more along the lines of the victorious Christian life where everything is perfect and smiles all around and every prayer always heals cancer!  And isn’t that how it goes.  All over the country now, new pastors are going to their congregations and I’m sure there are people wondering in those churches, even out load, “This is who the Lord gave us to be our pastor?”  Maybe even many of you are still wondering how it is the Lord called me here.  I say let’s try to figure it out together because I’m still not sure sometimes and I know I’m not worthy of it.  But this is Paul’s message.  Paul uses this as a proof that the message is so much more important than the messenger and the message is Jesus, crucified for you dear sinner, Jesus is crucified for you.  Jesus came only for sinners.

And so for two chapters Paul carries in this way trying to explain to them his sincerity as an apostle.  By chapter 3, he is showing that the ministry of Christ far surpasses the ministry of Moses.  By chapter 4, he’s changing tack to show that this great treasure God hides in fragile vessels like clay pots.  Clay pits that crack so that means pastors are “crackpots.”  We are those vessels.  God puts his message in you because the message is so much more important than the messenger, to show that this surpassing greatness comes from God and is not a human devised religion.  Paul says, Christians are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Co 4:10)

This is the link.  This idea of death and resurrection in the body of Paul, in the bodies of believers, in the bodies of Christians, this is the link between chapter 4 and what Paul is saying today.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”  (v. 16-17)  So, by the time we get to our text today, Paul is decidedly not just delivering some thoughts about the future hope of resurrection but showing us that the frailty of life, that frailty which is so real to us this week, is proof of the work of Jesus Christ in us.  Don’t worry if you didn’t make the connection.  I had to go back and work through it all to try to understand it.  It’s just intensely profound here.  The suffering and persecution and loss and grief and that people endure and still remain faithful to the message of Jesus becomes a proof for the true nature of the Gospel itself.  In fact for Paul, all the sufferings and trials he has experienced were not proof that the Lord had abandoned him and the message he preached but were rather confirmations of that massage.  Paul knew it.  As Jesus went so go those who follow after him.  Too often we follow after the Corinthians in our thinking.  We think that if we love God, He should reciprocate and we should be living the victorious Christian life!  And we struggle.  Disease stares us in the face and we blink and we get afraid and we doubt and we don’t get better.  And we think maybe I just don’t believe enough.  Maybe I need to pray harder.  Maybe I need to get thousands of people praying for me to overcome this illness.  And we forget what Paul taught us.  We forget that in this body we groan.  If we want to see resurrection in our life we need to be ready to see crucifixion.  But Jesus is at work crucified for you, He is at work to bring you through trial and suffering to resurrection in glory everlasting.  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, with all its groanings, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  This is the link to what came before and to our reading today.

As many of you know, our son, Daniel, became a Cub Scout last fall with three goals, go camping, shoot a bow and arrow and go fishing and in quick order, last fall we had an opportunity to go for the trifecta in one weekend, Fish-a-rama.  We went down below Rutherfordton in the foothills.  We were assigned a tent at one of the sites and Daniel thought it was the greatest thing ever.  But it was the first weekend in October and if you remember we had an unusually cold fall that came early.  And we spent the night, all night, in that old scout tent, shivering, yearning, groaning even, for our real home.

Paul’s metaphor is far more powerful, more intense than mine.  This earthly body is a mere tent; we long for our true heavenly housing, our resurrected, glorified body.  If you think that maybe Paul is talking about life here on earth being the tent and life in God’s house in heaven, verse 6 is a corrective.  “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”  “For while we are still in this tent we groan.”  Paul is not saying, “Hey, nothing in this physical world really matters, we’re just tenting here for a while.”  No.  After all John tells us, the Lord himself became flesh and the Greek says not just that Jesus dwelled among us but that he “tented” among us.  (Jn 1:14)  Paul is saying that this tent in which we presently dwell will be exchanged for the eternal heavenly dwelling, that is, our resurrected body, redeemed for eternity, restored and transformed by God Himself to all its bodily perfection.  What Paul is saying runs counter to so much of what many believe about eternity.  When we die, we don’t just shuffle off this mortal coil and dwell forever in heaven.  This body is a mere tent that we yearn to trade in for our glorified, eternal body.  Our yearning for something better.  Our groaning is the suffering we undergo now and the present glory to be revealed.  Our future is not to become disembodied in heaven, but, as Tom Wright puts it re-embodied, or rather, even more fully bodied at the resurrection of the dead.[1]

In Paul’s day there were people who believed that physical things, especially the flesh of the human body was fundamentally inferior to spiritual things.  Despite Paul’s best efforts, these ideas continued to plague the church for centuries to the point that many just couldn’t believe that the eternal, divine Son of God became actual human flesh.  Paul was already defending the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of the apostles against these ideas.  These ideas are alive and well today.  Listen today to the stark contrast our funeral liturgy speaks in the face of such ideas.  This should be reason enough for us to have such liturgies so that we are not overcome by the spirit of the times when we are weak but return to the sure words our Lord and his apostles have spoken for us.  These are not human words.  These are the Words of God that we return to over and over again when we groan.  The way some have it, the goal of the Christian life is for our spirits to leave this world and fly away to heaven forever.  And yet Paul says that the goal of eternity life together with God in the resurrection is not to walk around naked, that is, a bare soul or spirit, but rather “clothed” with the further and greater clothing of a glorified body like Christ’s glorified and risen body.

Just as it was with Jesus’ resurrection so it will be with ours and this is God’s own doing.  “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”   This is such good news.  God has mnade a down payment.  Our very possession of the Holy Spirit is the down payment from God Himself that this will happen.  So, dear Christian, do you have the Spirit?  Of course you do.  Jesus Himself gave you the Spirit when you were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.  If you have been baptized into the Holy Spirit, you have been given the Holy Spirit.  Where God’s name is there you can be sure He is.  And so our great and future promise is that the Holy Spirit will not live in a tent forever; He will dwell in our resurrected and glorified bodies even as we dwell with God forever.

Those of you who have ever bought any real estate know something about what Paul is saying here.  If you’re serious about buying a piece of land, what do you do?  You put down earnest money, money that if you choose to back out of the deal later, you lose it.  God has put down a deposit on you, the Spirit.  So do you see what God has done?  In order for God to walk away from the deal, it would destroy the unity of the Godhead Himself.  The Holy Spirit in you is God’s pledge of future glory with Him in eternity.  I’m not trying to be clever here, but the truth is, in other words, God’s locked Himself into escrow for you!

This is why we are of good courage even in the face of all the difficulty and tribulation and the grief and the worry and the mourning that surrounds us on all sides even to the point of standing before the judgment seat of Christ.  That idea is more than a little unnerving to most of us.  Except that you dear Christian stand before the judgment seat of Christ trusting solely in the grace of God in Christ, you stand before Him trusting solely in the forgiveness of sins won by Christ Himself for you, you stand assured by the down payment of the Holy Spirit given to you that nothing can separate you from the love of God already shown to you in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and in His resurrection and gift of the Spirit to you as a down payment.  This is what gives us such great comfort in such times.  God has promised it.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


[1] Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: 2 Corinthians (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 53.

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